Laidlaw-Stanford House

This richly decorated Classical Revival residence was designed in 1897 for Horace Laidlaw by architects Charles I. Havens (1849–1916) and William H. Toepke (1870–1949). For the grand sum of $3,500 contractors Mallory and Swenson built the house, which was comprised of two floors with an attic and a basement. Although Dr. Laidlaw had the residence constructed, he never lived at this address—he was a physician and druggist who worked at 3039 Sacramento Street at the time but resided elsewhere, at 1715 Broderick Street.

Upon completion of the residence, Laidlaw rented it to Jerome B. Stanford, who resided there until 1903. Born in Albany, New York in 1847, Jerome was the nephew of Senator Leland Stanford, who brought him to California in 1856 as a young child.

At various times in his life Jerome B. Stanford was a mining engineer, merchant, stockbroker and editor. He also worked for G. W. Clark & Company (importers and jobbers of wallpapers, interior decorators and window shade manufacturers). According to the 1900 United States Census Mr. Stanford (age 52) lived at 3232 Jackson Street with his wife Clara (age 31), their daughter Helen (age 3), and two servants, Selma Gaffe (age 43) and a Japanese man (age 24). Mr. Stanford was married three times: divorced from his first wife, widowed by the death of his second; and later separated from his third, Clara. Jerome B. Stanford died in 1929 at the age of 84.

Over ten families have owned the home; the most famous of its proprietors were Norman Banks Livermore and Caroline Sealy Livermore, noted on tax records as having owned the property from 1925 until 1939. Norman was the grandson of Horatio Putnam Livermore, who came to California in 1850 and was a civil engineer who sold locomotives and mining equipment. He was also a director of Pacific Gas & Electric. His wife Caroline is remembered as an environmentalist who was active in protecting Angel Island and the Marin headlands. She was a founder of the Marin Art and Garden center. Records show that the Livermores resided at their family home on Russian Hill from 1916 until 1930, after which they moved to Ross. They may have rented out this home or used it during trips to the city.

The architects Havens and Toepke formed their partnership in 1895 and continued it until 1915. Charles I. Havens was born in New York in 1849 and arrived in California in 1856. Havens served for twelve years as City Architect of San Francisco, designing many of the early schools, none of which survive. His distinctive designs include 1381 South Van Ness Avenue (1884), 601 Steiner Street (1891), 900–902 Guerrero Street (Daly Residence, 1895) and 2965 Washington Street (1887). He died in 1916. William H. Toepke was born in California in 1870 and lived until 1949.

Together their firm was responsible for the following designs: 1964 Pacific Avenue (1901), 15 Presidio Terrace (1905), 2957 –2961 Washington Street (1908) and 540–548 Market Street (The Flatiron Building, 1908).

In 1915 the house was raised to make room for a garage, and new terrazzo stairs were added to the front. In 1964 architect John Walker resided here and his firm, Walker and Moody, made alterations amounting to $5,000.

The current owners acquired the home in 1974 to raise their family. The home appealed to them due to its uniquely spacious yet private layout. Their primary improvements include a remodeled kitchen, refinished floors, new decks and the garden design. Most impressive, however, have been the improvements to the exterior façade. Moldings around the garage level and the first floor banding have been restored in styles appropriate to the period of construction. The property’s visual street appeal was further improved through the removal of cement embankments and the addition of a Victorian style fence and newel posts.

In an interesting connection to this year’s tour, the current owner’s grandfather, Sam McBirney, and her great uncle, Alexander McBirney, both worked for Pacific Bell and were the chief architects of the communications systems for the Panama Pacific International Exhibition of 1915. Alexander was its Chief Telephone Engineer.